As I picked my girls up from last weekend’s birthday party, the birthday girl’s Mum stopped to say how well behaved and polite my girls had been, always remembering their ‘pleases and thank yous’. I must confess I was quite delighted to hear that my children had ‘remembered their manners’ despite the fact that we don’t make a very big deal about ‘manners’ at home.
I don’t make my children say please, thank you or sorry. At home I often don’t even encourage, or prompt them to say please, thank you or sorry, and we definitely don’t withhold things waiting for ‘the magic words’ to be said.
I remember when my girl’s were little and someone asked them if they wanted a treat. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” what their excited reply. “What’s the magic word?” asked the treat giver, and both girls stopped and looked rather confused for a moment, then Izzy pipped up… “I know… it’s ABRACADABRA!”.
My girls had never heard that phrase before, so at two year of age the only ‘magic word’ they knew was ‘abracadabra!’ I still giggle when I think about it, but I am not sure the treat giver found it so amusing. In fact the look of horror on her face makes me suspect she was writing my name on the ‘worst parents in the world list’, but I don’t care.
Please and Thank You are not ‘magic words’ that you can utter and magically have everything turn out the way you want it. You can’t have something simply because you said please. Simply saying thank you does not mean you appreciated something or someone, and just saying sorry doesn’t magically make whatever happened ok. There needs to be understanding and intent behind those words to make them meaningful, and I don’t believe you encourage that be making a simple rule that they must always be said.
It’s not that we don’t value manners nor want our children to know how to behave in social situations. What we want is for our children to really mean the things they say and to understand why they are saying them. We can all parrot the right words when required but a thank you means much more when accompanied with real gratitude and sorry means much more when partnered with a hug.
At the Pickle Farm we talk about what it means to have ‘good manners’ and to be gracious, thankful, polite and compassionate. We help our children find the right words or ways to interact in social situations, including when it might be nice to tell someone you appreciate them, or how it makes you feel when someone asks for something in a nice way, or how you might help make things better if you’ve hurt someone or made a mistake. We try to lead by example and model these things, and also be honest when we don’t quite live up to our goals.
Sometimes I think it would be easier to just prompt our kids to say the right thing and not take the time to explain things… but when someone tells me how polite my children are when I’m not around to prompt them, then I know that easier isn’t always better.
Do you think it is important to teach children manners?
How do you teach your children manners?